Purchase of 24 zero-emissions buses, plus switch to renewable diesel for LIFT and WES commuter rail service helps TriMet move forward on climate-saving efforts
Just days after the world celebrated the 52nd annual Earth Day, TriMet’s Board of Directors has approved climate actions to reduce TriMet greenhouse gas emissions, move the agency forward on the road to a clean-energy bus fleet, and help make our region’s air cleaner. The Board passed two resolutions on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, that initiate TriMet’s first bulk purchase of battery-electric buses and expand the use of renewable diesel in our diesel transit service vehicles.
Zero-emissions milestone for TriMet’s bus fleet
With the Board’s support, TriMet will purchase 24 long-range battery electric, zero-emissions buses from California-based bus manufacturer GILLIG. The cost is estimated at $26.7 million dollars and represents our largest investment in electric bus technology to date. This is a critical milestone to transitioning to a zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040. The buses in this first bulk purchase of all-electric buses will be long-range buses, with the aim to travel between 150 and 200 miles on a single charge. They will begin arriving in fall 2023.
“Transitioning away from diesel completely will take time as electric and other zero-emissions sources continue evolving, but now is the time to invest in this emerging technology,” said TriMet General Manager Sam Desue Jr. “As transit is a vital part of the solution to climate change, this will keep TriMet on the forefront of new advances to improve the air we breathe here in the Portland region.”
TriMet has been testing electric buses since early 2019. We’re testing five short-range electric buses from New Flyer, five long-range electric buses from GILLIG and four diesel-to-electric converted buses, including what is believed to be the world’s first 60-foot, articulated bus converted to 100% electric.
Renewable diesel fuels more TriMet vehicles
With the Board’s authorization, TriMet will contract with Bretthauer Oil Company for the mobile fueling of our LIFT paratransit and WES commuter rail vehicles using renewable diesel. This contract is estimated at $15.1 million over five years, beginning May 2022. It comes five months after TriMet switched to renewable diesel for our fixed-route buses. Unlike the renewable diesel that is delivered for our fixed-route buses and stored in underground tanks, the fuel for our LIFT vehicles and WES trains is directly put into the vehicles themselves from the delivery vehicles.
TriMet is using a blend of 99% renewable diesel and 1% petroleum, known as R99. While renewable diesel is chemically identical to petroleum, it comes with environmental and operational benefits. Not only does it contain nearly no fossil carbon, it also performs better in cold weather. And because the fuel is derived primarily from fats, greases and other naturally reoccurring organic matter, there is far less reliance on refined petroleum.
Nearly 70% reduction in TriMet’s greenhouse gas emissions
The move to renewable diesel in our fixed-route buses, and now LIFT vehicles and WES trains, combined with our shift to renewable electricity in June 2021 for MAX trains and all TriMet-owned facilities, reduces TriMet’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 70%. While the long-term plan is to cut TriMet’s emissions down to net zero by 2050, our actions today make an immediate impact for our riders and the environment. We estimate that with these climate actions, TriMet will avoid more than 193 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year. That is equivalent to taking almost 19,000 automobiles off the road, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Helping our environment
Public transit is a powerful tool in moving the region—and the world—toward cleaner travel options. Over the past five decades, TriMet has provided more than three billion rides on our transit system. Each time a person chooses a ride on our buses or trains over driving their car, our environment benefits. That, combine with TriMet’s investments in low and zero-emissions technology, fuel and energy sources, we are an important partner in helping our region address climate change and create a cleaner air future. Learn more about TriMet’s Climate Action Plan.
We encourage people to get on board to reduce your own carbon footprint. If you need help planning the trip, go to trimet.org and use our easy online trip planner. You can find more help at support.trimet.org or by contacting TriMet’s customer service team at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
Driving for change
TriMet relies on a mighty team of committed bus operators to get riders where they need to go, and right now is the perfect time to join the team. With more electric buses coming to TriMet’s fleet, new operators will be at the forefront on driving the emerging technology. Plus, TriMet provides generous wages and benefits!
Applicants for our bus driver positions are now eligible for a $7,500 bonus and starting pay of $25.24 per hour. This kicks in during the training process, where we teach you the ins and outs of driving a bus and where you can earn your Commercial Driver’s License on our dime.
All operators receive regular, guaranteed pay raises according to our Working and Wage Agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 757. Under the agreement, bus operators reach the top rate within three years of employment, guaranteeing a base pay of at least $68,000 a year before any overtime.
In addition to the financial incentives to join our team, TriMet bus operators receive a generous package of benefits, which includes low- to no-cost health, life and disability insurance; paid vacation and sick time; a retirement account with a guaranteed employer contribution; union representation and more. All new employees also have access to:
- Medical, dental, vision, disability and life insurance plans at low or no monthly cost
- Two retirement plans, with an 8% agency base pay contribution to employee’s 401a
- One week of paid vacation and up to 40 hours sick leave in the first year of employment, with paid time off increasing over time
- Health and dependent care spending accounts
- Access to our Employee Assistance Program with mental health and counseling services, legal assistance, financial coaching and home ownership programs
- Annual transit pass (valued up to $1200) for employee and eligible family members
- 24-hour access to five exclusive, low-cost, on-site fitness centers
- Representation by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 757
TriMet bus operators have the option to pursue full- or part-time schedules of at least 25 hours per week. Learn more at trimet.org/drive.